Pain is your body’s means of delivering information. It’s not a very enjoyable approach but it can be beneficial. When that megaphone you’re standing next to goes too loud, the pain allows you to know that major ear damage is happening and you instantly (if you’re smart) cover your ears or remove yourself from that extremely loud environment.
But, in spite of their minimal volume, 8-10% of people will feel pain from low volume sounds as well. Hearing specialists refer to this affliction as hyperacusis. It’s a medical term for overly sensitive ears. The symptoms of hyperacusis can be managed but there’s no cure.
Elevated sensitivity to sound
Hyperacusis is a hypersensitivity to sound. Usually sounds in a specific frequency cause episodes of hyperacusis for individuals who suffer from it. Quiet noises will frequently sound very loud. And noises that are loud seem a lot louder than they actually are.
No one’s really sure what causes hyperacusis, though it’s frequently associated with tinnitus or other hearing issues (and, in some situations, neurological concerns). There’s a noticeable degree of personal variability when it comes to the symptoms, intensity, and treatment of hyperacusis.
What kind of response is typical for hyperacusis?
In most cases, hyperacusis will look and feel something like this:
- Your response and pain will be worse the louder the sound is.
- You may experience pain and buzzing in your ears (this pain and buzzing could last for days or weeks after you hear the original sound).
- You will hear a particular sound, a sound that everybody else perceives as quiet, and that sound will sound very loud to you.
- Balance problems and dizziness can also be experienced.
Treatments for hyperacusis
When your hyperacusis makes you sensitive to a wide range of frequencies, the world can be like a minefield. You never know when a wonderful night out will suddenly become an audio onslaught that will leave you with ringing ears and a three-day migraine.
That’s why it’s so crucial to get treatment. You’ll want to come in and speak with us about which treatments will be most up your alley (this all tends to be rather variable). Here are some of the most prevalent options:
One of the most commonly deployed treatments for hyperacusis is something called a masking device. While it might sound ideal for Halloween (sorry), in reality, a masking device is a piece of technology that cancels out certain wavelengths of sounds. These devices, then, can selectively hide those triggering wavelengths of sound before they ever get to your ear. You can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear the triggering sound!
A less sophisticated strategy to this general method is earplugs: you can’t have a hyperacusis episode if you can’t hear… well, anything. It’s certainly a low-tech strategy, and there are some disadvantages. There’s some research that suggests that, over time, the earplugs can throw your hearing ecosystem even further out of whack and make your hyperacusis worse. If you’re considering using earplugs, give us a call for a consultation.
An strategy, known as ear retraining therapy, is one of the most extensive hyperacusis treatments. You’ll use a mix of devices, physical therapy, and emotional therapy to try to change how you react to certain kinds of sounds. Training yourself to dismiss sounds is the basic idea. This strategy depends on your commitment but usually has a positive rate of success.
Less prevalent solutions
Less prevalent methods, including ear tubes or medication, are also utilized to manage hyperacusis. These approaches are less commonly utilized, depending on the specialist and the individual, because they have delivered mixed success.
Treatment makes a big difference
Because hyperacusis has a tendency to vary from person to person, an individual treatment plan can be formulated depending on your symptoms as you encounter them. There’s no single best approach to managing hyperacusis, it really depends on choosing the best treatment for you.